Vinod Kurup

Hospitalist/programmer in search of the meaning of life

How to Change the Rear Tire on a 12 Inch Bicycle

I’m not the handiest guy in the world, so I’m pretty proud that I was able to fix a flat tire on Kavi’s 12” bicycle.

DISCLAIMER: I have almost no idea what I’m doing. Follow my instructions at your peril.

I’ve fixed flats before, but it’s been a long time. Fixing it on such a tiny bike was a lot harder than I thought. The manual makes it seem so simple. “Remove the wheel, take the tube out, patch the tube and then replace the tube and tire.” Right… I got stuck at step 1. Removing the wheel isn’t straightforward. Most of the videos available online focus on adult-sized bikes which have quick-release tires. You pull a release lever back and then pull the tire off. Kids bikes have bolts instead of quick-release levers. You have to loosen the bolts, but you don’t have to take the bolts completely off. You also have to take off the plastic chain guard that prevents kids from rubbing their legs against the chain. Finally, there’s this little metal piece that attaches the wheel to the frame. I think it’s there for the pedal-brake to work. In any case, you have to take that off. Once the wheel is loosened, you have to unhook the wheel from the chain. This is also easier in big bikes which have multiple gears, making it possible to place the chain in a position to easily get it off the wheel. In a kid’s bike, it’s harder. Once I loosened the bolts on both sides of the wheel, I pushed the wheel a little forward, which loosened the chain and made it easy to release from the chain.

The next difficulty was getting the tube out of the tire. All the videos make this seem so easy. Place a tire lever in the tire to pull it over the rim. Put another tire lever in and slide it around the rim to get the rest of the tire out. Kavi’s tires are so tight that this was impossible. I could get the first tire lever in, but when I put the second tire lever in, it was completely immovable. There was no way that I was going to be able to slide it anywhere. I finally found a website where they recommended using a third tire lever. Put the first two in a few inches apart. Then put the third one in another inch away from the second one. Finally remove the middle one and move it an inch past the third one. In this way, I was able to get the tire off eventually.

I then got the tube out and found the leak. I placed a patch on it, but when I reinflated the tire, the leaking air just pushed it’s way through the patch. I tried roughing up the area with the roughing tool, but that didn’t help. Finally, I resorted to the layman’s favorite tool: duct tape. I placed the patch, then wrapped it with duct tape. It’s held together for a few months now.

Hopefully Kavi will graduate to the next size bike before my handiwork breaks down. On another note, Kavi was easily able to pick up the basics of riding a bike by following the REI guide. I took off the training wheels and the pedals, which allowed him to get the feeling of balancing the bike without having to keep his feet on the pedals. Once he got that part, it was relatively easy for him to balance with the pedals on. He also proved to be a much tougher kid than I was. Everytime he fell, he got right back on.

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